by Trevor Noah
Finished Reading on March 30, 2021
This book is superb, I love Trevor Noah, his sense of humor, and wit. If you’re going to read this book, definitely listen to the audio version as well. his narration is effortless. It genuinely feels like he is sitting down with you and telling you his life story.
His story is uplifting and full of wisdom and history. I did find the chronology of the book a bit confusing at times—one chapter would be from his childhood and then the next would jump to his teen years, and back, but other than that, it was a very pleasant read full of wisdom and knowledge, and overall It was fascinating learning about his life growing up as a mixed-race child in pre-and post-Apartheid South Africa.
Some of my favorite quotes:
We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited. Growing up in Soweto, our dream was to put another room on our house. Maybe have a driveway. Maybe, someday, a cast-iron gate at the end of the driveway. Because that is all we knew. But the highest rung of what’s possible is far beyond the world you can see. My mother showed me what was possible. The thing that always amazed me about her life was that no one showed her. No one chose her. She did it on her own. She found her way through sheer force of will.
I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new. If you think too much about the ass-kicking your mom gave you, or the ass-kicking that life gave you, you’ll stop pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. It’s better to take it, spend some time crying, then wake up the next day and move on. You’ll have a few bruises and they’ll remind you of what happened and that’s okay. But after a while the bruises fade, and they fade for a reason—because now it’s time to get up to some shit again.
I believed that Fufi was my dog, but of course that wasn’t true. Fufi was a dog. I was a boy. We got along well. She happened to live in my house. That experience shaped what I’ve felt about relationships for the rest of my life: You do not own the thing that you love. I was lucky to learn that lesson at such a young age. I have so many friends who still, as adults, wrestle with feelings of betrayal. They’ll come to me angry and crying and talking about how they’ve been cheated on and lied to, and I feel for them. I understand what they’re going through. I sit with them and buy them a drink and I say, “Friend, let me tell you the story of Fufi.”
When I was twenty-four years old, one day out of the blue my mother said to me, “You need to find your father.” “Why?” I asked. At that point I hadn’t seen him in over ten years and didn’t think I’d ever see him again. “Because he’s a piece of you,” she said, “and if you don’t find him you won’t find yourself.” “I don’t need him for that,” I said. “I know who I am.” “It’s not about knowing who you are. It’s about him knowing who you are, and you knowing who he is. Too many men grow up without their fathers, so they spend their lives with a false impression of who their father is and what a father should be. You need to find your father. You need to show him what you’ve become. You need to finish that story.”
But even as my life was moving forward, the questions about my dad were always there in the back of my mind, bubbling up to the surface now and then. “I wonder where he is. Does he think about me? Does he know what I’m doing? Is he proud of me?” When a parent is absent, you’re left in the lurch of not knowing, and it’s so easy to fill that space with negative thoughts. “They don’t care.” “They’re selfish.” My one saving grace was that my mom never spoke ill of him.
I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.
In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don’t see the person it affects. We don’t see their face. We don’t see them as people. Which was the whole reason the hood was built in the first place, to keep the victims of apartheid out of sight and out of mind. Because if white people ever saw black people as human, they would see that slavery is unconscionable. We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them.
If you’re in an environment that is positive and progressive, you too will become that.